Manchester United's controversial 2009 investment coming good?

Stretford End

Manchester United's under-21 side beat Liverpool last night, with a goal from a player who signed for them in acrimonious circumstances.

Whether it be under-10s matches or simply a pre-game coin toss, Manchester United simply want to beat Liverpool at anything opportunity they get, and vice-versa.

So this last night's under-21 game between the two clubs was every bit as intense as you would expect.

Liverpool were the hosts, but any home advantage they held went out the window midway through the second half when they were reduced to 10 men.

As the game appeared to be petering out, United's young guns did what their first team is renowned for doing and grabbed a late winner, courtesy of Italian defender Michele Fornasier striking a close range winner.

So what do you need to know about the defender? Well he comes with an interesting backstory.

The centre-back was snapped up from Fiorentina back in 2009, and the transfer nearly threatened to land United in hot water. The Italian side were furious at losing such a hotly tipped prospect before he could even sign professional terms.

So angry that they complained to FIFA. Fortunately for United, world football's governing body rejected the complaint, judging United had not done anything wrong. But their reputation had been dragged through the mud again.

Fornasier signed for United in September 2009, a month after his 16th birthday, and is currently 19.

A centre-back, he has been a regular starter for the club's under-21 side this season, partnering highly rated Englishman Tom Thorpe. He has made 13 starts for the under-21s, and last night's winner was his first goal of the season.

At 19 and playing for the under-21s, simply speaking Fornasier is on track, and will hope for more progress. But this is Manchester United and it is always more complicated than that.

Fornasier is well down the queue. Forgetting the first team regulars at present, he will have to work his way past Scott Wootton, Michael Keane and Tom Thorpe, while Frederic Veseli is also in the mix, playing too in the under-21s.

Looking at Wootton and Keane, Fornasier can look at the season they have enjoyed this season as one he can hope to emulate next year. Both have made their first team bows in the Capital One Cup, Wootton too in the Champions League, and both are now on loan in the Championship, Wootton with Peterborough and Keane with Leicester.

With Ferdinand and Vidic edging towards a stage in their United careers where their futures are uncertain, there could well be opportunities over the next 2-3 years for young defenders to break through, but not all will make it.

Fornasier can be satisfied with his progress to date, and his winner last night might just be the finest moment of his United career so far. He is coming good, but he's only making baby steps right now. The big challenge is yet to come.

image: © smemon

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